Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry jam

Yesterday, the kids and I went strawberry picking at Homestead Farms.   In my family, there are 3 types of pickers.  The first type plops down in the row, starts singing and lazily picks a berry or two.  The second type stands above the plants and proclaims there are no good berries - and when he does start picking, it's a random one every few plants.  Then there is me.  I start at a bush, look under the leaves and pick clean, move to next bush and repeat.

This is about $45 of strawberries!  No one said making jam was cheap. 

I cleaned one tray of berries, rinsed and put on a tray and froze.  When frozen, I broke apart those berries that were stuck together and then put in a freezer bag.

Time to make the jam!  Here is all the equipment needed - pots, jars, lids, bands and tongs

Jam is not hard to make and I just follow the directions in the Pectin box.  Crush enough berries to make 6 cups.  Put in a pot, add some sugar that has been mixed with the pectin.  Bring to a roiling boil.

Once the berries are boiling, add the rest of the sugar and bring back to the boil.

Ladle into jars, wipe rims clean and put on lids and bands.

Once lids are on, put into canning pot, bring water to boil and process the jars for 10 min.

Take the jars out of the water and let set for 24 hours.  The jars should make a ping sound as the seal tightens.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging - Mint Limeade

My friend at mommy porch sent me the link to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cook (almost) Anything.  This is a great idea, especially since I'm trying to cook more with my herbs.

Last night, Sean and the kids and I went to our friends for movie night.  They pulled out of the freezer, this fabulous frozen mint Marguerita mixture.  It was delicious and while I've decided this is going to be my go-to summer alcoholic drink, there wasn't time today to buy the alcohol.  So I decided to try a mint limeade instead.

First things first - the haul from the garden looked like this today

Mint in purple vase

Arugula, the last of the peas from one variety, the first Chiogga beets

Snowpeas, Mizuna, tops of the leeks


My garden is overrun with mint.  Last week, I shared lots with colleagues but mint has a mind of its own and just grows and grows.  There is only so much iced tea to steep it in and I wanted to try something new.

Mint Limeade

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup lime juice

Combine sugar, water and mint in a pot.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Let mixture steep for several minutes.  Strain out mint and add 1 cup lime juice to the sugar syrup (I had key lime juice I wanted to use up).  Pour a few tablespoons into a glass with ice and fill with seltzer water.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day in the Garden

While I usually walk through the vegetable garden every day or every other day, it's been a couple of weeks since I really weeded.  Today, I started out early and spent 4 hours weeding around the vegetables, weeding the paths and with the help of my friend Edouard, turning the community compost.  Everything looks pretty good.  With the hot and humid weather, some of the greens have started to bolt so they were pulled out today - spinach, raab and arugula. They were tossed into the corner of the garden to start a little compost pile.  Well, the arugula was cut and I'll let it grow back and go to seed which will be spread out in the garden.

Fava Bean!

Beets peeking out

Bolted spinach

Radish that was let go to flower


Potatoes - the stalks are huge!

The tops of the leeks. I cut them all off - will saute and eat

The first harvest of Chiogga beets

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drying herbs

I need to do more things with my herbs.  I have been making tea with the lemon balm and the mint also goes into tea and tabouli salad.  I dry thyme and occasionally snip the fresh herbs for cooking.  I'd like to try herb vinegars and maybe dry more herbs - I've also always wanted to try making a lavender wand

There's just not enough time to do everything I want to do!

Tonight,  I clipped a big bunch of thyme and dried it in the dehydrator. Tomorrow I'll strip the leaves and put the herbs in a jar

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Today's harvest from the garden

I try to stop by the vegetable garden every night or every other night on my way home from work.  I just haven't been able to find the time lately to weed so this long weekend will find me with the vegetables.  The weather is now getting hot so I don't think the spinach, raab or arugula is going to last much longer.  The 2 screens that were hinged and set up for the cukes to grow on are working great - I planted mustard and lettuce underneath it and it's shaded enough for the greens to do well.  The potatoes are in flower and look wild!  My favas are also in flower but since I've never grown them before, I'm not sure what the bean is going to look like.

Today I picked lettuce, mizuna and mustard greens as well as snow peas.

Mizuna and mustard

Snow peas
I was going to blanch the snow peas and then saute with a little sesame oil but the kids wanted to eat them raw.  They were good and crunchy but could have used some dip - everything tastes better with dip

For my dinner, I had a little heritage ham in the fridge, so I diced it up and heated it in oil.  I added the greens and mixed it all up until the greens were cooked.  This was going to be dinner but looking at it I thought, hmm, this would taste better with eggs.  So I used the easy poaching method (fry for 1 min, add a few ice cubes, cover and cook 2 more min) and made 2 eggs.  Top ham/greens with eggs and grind pepper on it to taste (the ham was salty so I didn't add more salt)

What's blooming May 27

There's still a lot of green in the front yard garden - we seem to be in a bit of a lull with the flowers.  Here's what is blooming this week



Shrub rose

Guara - Whirling Butterflies

Lady's Mantle


Sean rigged the orchids to hang on the fence





Monday, May 24, 2010

Risotto with spring peas

I walked through the garden today and picked lots of greens for salads.  My garden neighbor D was sitting in his garden (he has set up a trellis like shade area with a chair) and while we were chatting I heard the sound of a bird singing very close by.  There was a little wren in his garden, chirping away.  He and his mate were nesting in the birdhouse that D had amongst his sweet peas.  My gardening neighbor said the wren had become very used to him in the garden.

Today was meatless Monday and while my son was not that enthusiastic about it, I insisted.  He did end up helping me make dinner and has already planned dinner for tomorrow night (fried chicken).

Risotto with Spring Peas

Chop fine a small onion.  Heat a saute pan with some oil or butter and fry onion until soft.  Add 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and stir to coat.  Pour in 1/2 cup white wine and stir until absorbed.  Slowly add 5 1/2 cups of broth, one ladle full at a time.  After each ladle of broth, stir until most of the liquid is dissolved.  Before the last cup of broth is used, stir in peas.  When all cooked, add parmesan cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup or so).

Frying onion

Fresh peas

Base to make vegetable broth

Rice and broth added

My helper

Risotto with salad